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The Curious Case Of The Student Union Bill

Wellington - There was strange and unusual behaviour on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill stock on Wednesday as National sought to end the long running filibuster by Labour to prevent its passage.

For some months, members’ day has been bogged down on the New Zealand Royal Society Amendment Bill which sat ahead of the bill which makes student union membership voluntary.

Since the Royal Society bill was in the name of Labour MP Grant Robertson it was relatively easy for Labour to slow the pace of its passage to that of a legislative snail.

With just a possible three more members days left it seemed inevitable to most people the student union bill would not pass ahead of the election.

As a result the probability of it passing into law remained around 20 percent for some weeks.

On Wednesday morning the stock went through a spectacular rise with some traders willing to buy it up to more than a 90 percent probability.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, National pulled out its filibuster-breaking tool and backed ACT MP Heather Roy when she moved that the House in committee should report progress on the bill.

This effectively ended the debate so the House could move on to the next item of business – the student union bill.

The rules allow this, but it is rarely used.

This is because the Government has a majority in the House and usually wants to make progress on its own bills.

The activity on the stock indicates at least some traders were working on inside knowledge, but it certainly wasn’t any Labour MPs as they were clearly surprised and angered by the move.

Labour cried foul claiming they had an undertaking from National that the student union bill would not be debated this week.

Wednesday evening saw a valiant, but in the end vain, attempt to filibuster the student union bill, which will now only need two more members’ nights to pass into law.

If these fail to eventuate National still has the power to adopt Heather Roy's legislation as a Government bill and pass it that way.

The one remaining curious thing is:

Did it only recently occur to National to use the filibuster breaking tactic? Or;

Did they allow Labour to bring members day to a stand still for as along as possible to avoid facing up to decisions on other members’ bills?


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